Response – ‘The Diagram’ and ‘Painting and Sensation’

February 22, 2012

In the two chapters ‘The Diagram’ and ‘Painting and Sensation’ from the book The Logic of Sensation, Deleuze writes about Francis Bacons act of painting, and his process towards making what he calls the Figure. Deleuze describes how Bacon is interested in creating sensation. Bacon is less interested to take a detour via the brain, rather he wants the paintings to hit the nervous system directly. He states that he is “cerebrally pessimistic but nervously optimistic, with an optimism that believes only in life. (…) Bacon’s formula would be: figuratively pessimistic, but figurally optimistic.” (p. 43, ‘Painting and Sensation’)

In the texts Deleuze describes ‘the diagram’ when speaking of the act of painting. He writes “The diagram is the operative set of traits and color patches, of lines and zones.” (p. 102, ‘The Diagram’) The diagram is both the necessary chaos of painting, but also what gives chaos rhythm, and according to Bacon there is a limit to what the diagram can do. Deleuze writes he “will never stop speaking of the absolute necessity or preventing the diagram from proliferating, the necessity of confining it to certain areas of the painting and certain moments of the act of painting.” (p. 109, ‘The Diagram’) If the diagram is allowed to cover the entire painting, as in abstract expressionism, it will end up in an impossible confused state that does not serve his purposes. Rather Bacon uses the diagram as a tool, a step in the process. Deleuze writes “The diagram is a possibility of fact – it is not the fact itself.” and he continues: “a new figuration, that of the Figure, should emerge from the diagram and make the sensation clear and precise.” (p. 110 ‘The Diagram’) Deleuze describes how the line-strokes and color-patches of the diagram have to be utilized in order to evolve into a Figure and stop being an optical organization. The diagram “unlocks areas of sensation” (p. 102, ‘The Diagram’) but is not the sensation itself.

Deleuze writes that “The diagram ends with the preparatory work and begins with the act of painting.” According to Deleuze Bacon didn’t make any sketches, but instead the preparatory work might be part of the act of painting, all the moments up until the painting is finished. Then the Figure has emerged, and Bacon has created sensation.

Reading Deleuzes texts on Bacon I struggle to understand in what way it is possible for Bacon to make use of sensation. If Bacons Figure is to hit the nervous system rather than the brain, to what extent can he, using his intellectual capacity to make art, control the outcome of his art as sensation?
– Jenny


One Response to “Response – ‘The Diagram’ and ‘Painting and Sensation’”

  1. THis is a really clear account of the essays we have read the week. The questions you begin to ask at the end are important one’s; the problem of the tension between ‘affects’ and ‘concepts’, or the affective work of the artist, and their intellectual labour is a really important one for all creative practitioners. Deleuze talks about how Bacon works through instinct, as though he were trying to get beyond the clitoral baggage to find something new to say. You remarks questioning the privileging of the new in the seminar were also really interesting. See how far you can really interrogate these questions you raise now! H.Frichot

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